Although the U.S. divorce rate has been declining since the 1980s and the CDC estimates that only 2.9 people per 1000 get divorced every year, it's still interesting to note that presently, fewer couples are actually tying the knot. According to a 2018 study on America's declining divorce rate, the downturn is attributed to Millennials waiting until they're financially solvent and a bit older (and wiser?) before taking the plunge—breakthroughs that Baby Boomers perhaps failed to recognize. But despite today's promising statistics, divorce is still very much a thing. And if your own marriage is on the rocks, you'd do well to consider the pros and cons of filing for divorce before making such a life-changing decision.
Whenever we experience significant difficulties in marriage, we may immediately jump to the idea of the positive outcomes of divorce while ignoring its disadvantages, namely, the costly litigation it entails and broader, negative consequences for the family unit. But, while some struggling marriages can be repaired—via therapy, improved resolution conflict, better sex, and otherwise—others simply aren't salvageable.
So if you're thinking about ending your marriage full-stop, weigh the following pros and cons of divorce before jumping head-first into the family court system.
Pros of Divorce
While divorce isn't a cure-all for every one of a marriage's shortcomings, it does have its advantages. Here are four positive outcomes of divorce to consider.
An End To Physical and Psychological Abuse
If you're married to a violent individual, then divorce via family court is your absolute out: No one should endure domestic abuse—physical or otherwise. Even if your S.O. isn't hitting you, they may be abusing you nonetheless. If they're also incessantly screaming and yelling at you, name-calling and ridiculing, gaslighting, threatening you, and/or is overly controlling, then you need to end such maltreatment immediately and divorce is, therefore, your best option. (If you, or someone you know, is in a dangerous situation, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline.)
Freedom to Live Your Best Life
You only have but one life to live, and priorities change. The things that we once were okay with sacrificing for the good of the marriage, say, a lucrative job with extra-long hours away from home or even the general freedom to come and go as we please, can become our dealbreakers. Thus, compromises we've made can seem more like bleak prison sentences than loving commitments to one another. Getting divorced may positively affect your life if you're completely miserable in the marriage and your spouse is no longer willing to meet you halfway.
New Relationship Opportunities
Many people fall in and out of love at different points in their marriages—and some relationships aren't able to go the distance. If one or both of you realize you're no longer in love—maybe you've worked on it and failed to get the spark back, for example, or you simply aren't willing to resolve your differences—an amicable divorce is a viable option that will allow you to rebuild a healthy, rewarding life with someone new. Infidelity, too, is a good reason to divorce (albeit disagreeably) and splitting up will help open a new door to a relationship with someone you can trust.
Divorce can actually be a breath of fresh air for your children if you're constantly duking it out with your S.O. Whether your kids are often caught in the middle or merely present during your fiery disagreements makes no difference: If they're constantly exposed to your fighting—regardless of how old they are—your home is no longer a happy place that feels safe.
Cons of Divorce
Divorce isn't a panacea for everything that's wrong in your life. It definitely won't solve all of your problems—and it could even create more issues. Consider the following four disadvantages of divorce before deciding to part ways for good.
Make no mistake: Divorce is as hard, if not harder, on children as it is on their parents and it can cause severe negative impact. You and your spouse can lessen the burden on your children by making their needs your number-one priority both during and after your divorce. Although a divorce that's devoid of outward animosity isn't always easy to promise, acting civilly during the process will help them navigate the changes your familial unit will undergo.
Divorce is costly. Both parties will incur attorney and legal fees—and they only add up when children are involved. The primary parent will often be entitled to child support and in some cases, spousal support, and even the most robust household income will, in essence, be halved. Possessions, earnings, real estate holdings, and sometimes even debt, get divided between divorcing couples, which can take quite a significant financial toll.
In their 2001 book entitled, The Case for Marriage, social researchers Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher estimate that “Divorcing individuals would need more than a 30% increase in income, on average, to maintain the same standard of living they had prior to their divorce," and that, "about one in five women fall into poverty as a result of divorce." Sobering numbers, indeed.
Adverse Emotional Ramifications
Even if a divorce is somewhat civil, you aren't immune to negative, even devastating, feelings that may follow. It's also impossible to know beforehand when, and how hard, they'll hit you. And regardless of the problems you two had, you'll still harbor psychological attachments that can be difficult to shake. Loneliness, sadness, self-blame, and worry, albeit normal, can be notoriously tough to bear, too.
Seek the help of a professional therapist (or at the very least a good support network in place) to help you deal with the potential fallout.
Changes To Third-party Relationships
Coworkers, friends, family, and associates will also be impacted by your divorce: The duo that they once knew and loved will morph into two separate units and, whether they're forced to or not, they might take sides. It's important to recognize that upon divorce, cracks in third-party relationships can also develop, and in addition to your spouse, you may lose other important people in your life, too.
So while filing for divorce might, at first, seem like a no-brainer, you still need to consider its pros and cons for your own sake and that of your family's. Depending on their severity, marital problems don't necessarily have to mean the end of the marriage—and the choice to split requires an informed opinion, especially in making such a permanent decision.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Marriage and Divorce. May 5, 2020.
Waite LJ, Gallaher M. The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially. New York, NY: Broadway Books; 2001.